Pandemic, TERF, QAnon, 5G and other popular words from 2020

This appeared in The Millennial Source

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As this year comes to an end, here is a review of some of the most important and frequently used words and phrases of 2020.

There is no contesting that the biggest news story of the year was the COVID-19 pandemic. There were few if any aspects of life that weren’t impacted by the deadly virus and the efforts to contain its spread. With the pandemic, there entered into common vocabulary a host of words and terms like “coronavirus” and “PPE” that, just a year ago, few regular folks used or even knew.

In addition to medical jargon that became commonplace, 2020 saw countless new slang terms gain prominence through a mix of social media and political divisions. To stay informed, you had to understand words like “Antifa,” “TERF” and, of course, “QAnon.” Most of these words weren’t 2020 inventions, but they gained added prominence this year.

As this year comes to an end, here is a review of some of the most important and frequently used words and phrases of 2020. Most will probably still be commonly used in 2021, but only time will tell what next year’s most important word will be. If we’re lucky, it won’t be “pandemic” for the second year in a row.

In 2020, despite being more of an ethos than an organization (according to FBI Director Chris Wray), Antifa became a scapegoat for a variety of transgressions and violent acts.

Example: “ Hoax stories about alleged Antifa activities are frequently spread online, either by right-wing groups stirring up unrest or left-wing groups trolling conservatives.”

Example: “ The study stresses the likelihood of underreporting among asymptomatic patients due to false negatives, as well as the fact that those who would not know themselves to be carriers of the disease can thus unknowingly transmit the virus.”

: The “Be water” philosophy is attributed to renowned martial artist Bruce Lee, specifically one of his lines from the 1971 TV show “Longstreet.” The philosophy, which encourages one to “empty your mind, be formless,” was taken up by pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong who resisted the increasingly militaristic response of mainland China to their activism.

Pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong, who has repeatedly been jailed for his efforts, has embraced this philosophy of flexibility in the face of oppression for himself and the movement.

Example: “ Hong Kong protesters have also adopted the ‘be water’ philosophy of martial artist Bruce Lee, which focuses on adaptability as a way of progressing.”

: Black exit. The Black conservative activist Candace Owens adopted “Blexit” (a take on “ Brexit”) to describe her campaign for a mass exodus of Black voters from the Democratic Party. While President Donald Trump increased the share of the vote he received from Black voters in November’s election compared to 2016, it was a relatively minor bump and Black voters were instrumental to securing President-elect Joe Biden ‘s victory.

Example: “ Regardless of the validity of the Blexit campaign, Trump was always going to be fighting an uphill battle to win over Black voters.”

Example: “ On January 11, Chinese state media announced that the first death from ‘novel coronavirus’ was that of a 61-year-old man who had gone to the market.”

Example: “ Netflix, which is currently producing the third season of the superhero show, ‘The Umbrella Academy,’ has already changed Page’s credit on the website so that it no longer uses his ‘deadname’.”

Disinformation: The weaponization of misinformation by nations and political rivals to harm adversaries. This year’s presidential election in the United States was again targeted by a Russian disinformation campaign, but Russia was not the only nation to use disinformation. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic proved to be fertile ground for intentionally misleading information.

Example: “ Putin has repeatedly disputed claims that Russia is engaged in any such disinformation campaigns, including claims specifically related to COVID-19.”

Juneteenth: June 19 (also known as “Freedom Day” and “Jubilation Day”) is a holiday that recognizes the day the last slaves in the US were officially freed. Though Juneteenth has been celebrated by Black Americans in the US for decades, it is not yet recognized as an official national holiday. This year, amid the Black Lives Matter social justice protests, Juneteenth and its history gained greater attention.

Example: “ Earlier this month, it was reported by Yahoo Finance that the international sports apparel company Nike would be recognizing Juneteenth as an annual paid holiday for its US workers.”

: A monstrous sea creature (usually depicted as a giant squid or octopus) originally from Scandinavian folklore, though tales of the mythical monster have spread to other regions. The creature has made multiple film appearances in the last decade, including in the 2010 film “Clash of the Titans” and the “Pirates of the Caribbean” film series.

Sydney Powell, a lawyer with a penchant for conspiracy theories who worked on Trump’s election fraud lawsuits, has claimed repeatedly she has evidence that would prove the presidential election was stolen. Powell referred to this never-revealed trove of evidence as the “Kraken,” as it was supposedly going to destroy the Democrats’ alleged efforts to steal the election.

Example: “ The nickname for the suits came after Powell promised to “release the Kraken” during an appearance on Fox Business, and the suits have since gained a massive following among followers of QAnon.”

: A disease outbreak that occurs across a large geographic area, or the whole world. In March, the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic. The word was so prevalent in daily life, both Merriam Webster and made “pandemic” their word of the year.

Example: “ While many of the largest airlines in the US will likely weather the coronavirus storm — by cutting employees and restructuring — the pandemic has already brought down multiple airlines.”

Example: “ Hundreds of millions of dollars have also been appropriated at the federal level for private corporations to produce PPE.”

: Q Anonymous — a pro-Trump conspiracy theory that claims Democrats and celebrities are part of a Satanist child sex trafficking cabal and that a “Deep State” inside the government is fighting Trump. At the center of the movement is an anonymous poster who goes by the name “Q” and is alleged to have top-secret government access, though many suspect Q’s identity is far less impressive.

The first Q posts appeared in 2017, but in 2020, the movement grew substantially with the assistance of social media influencers and well-meaning awareness campaigns.

Example: “ QAnon supporters often find secret messages in Trump’s tweets and public messages.”

Example: “ In addition to being a constitutional republic, the US is a federal republic, meaning that it is made up of states that have their own laws, and a presidential republic, as it has a president who operates independently of the legislative body, Congress.”

Example: “ Like Rowling, feminists who believe that transgender people are defined by their biological sex instead of their self-identified gender often dismiss the term ‘TERF’ as a slur.”

: Fifth-generation mobile technology — the latest upgrade in wireless technology that will allow greater connectivity for increasingly common “smart” technology, or the “internet of things.” The development of 5G technology, which is being led by China, is seen as a major leap forward, but its integration into all aspects of everyday life also raises concerns about security issues.

Conspiracy theorists have erroneously blamed 5G technology for COVID-19, brain cancer and other supposed ills.

Example: “ As the development of 5G technology has gained speed, scientists have been responding to concerns about its danger and assuring the public that there is no evidence that it is harmful.”

Originally published at on December 31, 2020.

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